'However great a man's natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.'
-Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Maintaining Our Freedom

government tapping

My personal belief is that, like the people who created the concept, democracy is an evolving idea and we have not yet reached its optimum state. However, it is hard not to see the recent intrusion by the UK government into our browsing history as a regression of that idea.

The slowly simmering nature of British politics has been said to have prevented us from committing to a full scale civil war. We learnt to devolve power from the traditionally wealthy and omnipotent to the people. In fact we are in danger of succumbing to a serious level of hypocrisy that entirely decreases the value of the sentiments we express towards other, emerging nations, for not protecting the personal privacy and freedom of their citizens. Yet the sinister notion that every frivolous Google search will be logged on a database for the next two years, for GCHQ to file, survey and rank is surely a breach too far.

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Freedom of Speech

zip-mouth

Is the term ‘freedom of speech’ becoming redundant? This question has been playing upon my mind for quite some time, and I feel as the days and months go steadily by the answer is veering more and more towards a yes. We live in an age that has become rife with paranoia in regards to the way we speak about individuals different to ourselves, whether this is through race, gender or sexuality. As our society becomes increasingly more diverse it often feels like we walk on eggshells when it comes to expressing our views on many matters that are becoming increasingly important in our country, such as immigration, religion, equal rights et cetera. There is a big difference between having a genuine concern or opinion and being unreasonably prejudiced, but when it comes to communicating these concerns in an acceptable way, how do we establish the difference, how to we know when the line has been crossed?

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A Culture of Clichés

men-women cliches

It is an unfortunate fact that in our consumer based society, a key indicator to determining the way we view ourselves is through advertising, simply because the very basis of their existence depends on targeting us. Much has recently been written lamenting the evils of this powerful tool and its ability to manipulate, however this only serves to paint us as naïve enough to succumb to the belief that our lives are unfulfilled, due to the void that could be filled by whichever stereotypical example of a product that you care to think of: "insert here". Whereas to me, the most undeniably worrying attribute of these advertisements is the way that they portray us and reflect what is deemed to be amusing or indeed, and more darkly, true.

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Egg and chips please, Seńor!

brits abroad

As the clocks go forward and the summer months approach us, the idea of a holiday abroad isn't far from a lot of British minds. The majority will migrate to warmer climates where the English language is of secondary importance to an exotic mother tongue, unfamiliar to their ears. How many of these holiday makers will go out of their way to learn (albeit basic) Spanish, French or Italian, for example? Will they try and adapt to their short term foreign homes and blend in with the local culture and traditions? I don't think so. Yet aren't some of these people the same patriots who expect holiday makers visiting England to respect their beloved 'Great Britain' or risk being labelled a 'bloody foreigner'?

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Children's TV

childrens tv

If the Netmums community can create a scandal about their children's TV programs then I feel almost obliged to do the same. Not that I would ever suggest that the moms in question used their forum powers for evil rather than good, however if a certain mom should take a dislike to a program, say, Peppa Pig then it would be likely that an amount of resentment may grow after the 50th repeat. All of a sudden that cute little pig and her younger brother become the focus of all the pent up anger of the stressed out, stay at home mom.

What looked like playfulness before now looks like something much darker, "so that's why my daughter jumps in puddles." "I'm sure my little boy ate his vegetables before he started watching this program!"

The doubt starts flickering through the parent's brain until one day they take to the Netmums forum and discover other disillusioned moms who also despise that little pig, see what a bad influence this program is becoming.

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The Lost Generation

youth unemploymnt

As it becomes more and more apparent that 2012 shows no sign of bucking the trend of the UK's and indeed the World's economic frailty in recent years, I thought it would be worthwhile looking at the opportunities available to the 'youth of today'. I myself fall into the category of UK citizens dubbed the 'lost generation'. We 16-24 year olds are facing a tougher time than most if we are to believe what we see on the news and in the papers. But how true is it? Are we all actually doom-laden with no hope? I'd like to think not but the term 'lost generation' itself doesn't really arouse much joy within me. Then there's the effect the actual term itself has on those unfortunate souls it applies to. It is exceptionally patronising to all those who are perhaps beginning successful careers or studying towards a higher qualification who become alluded to as no hopers, but then it actually enables those who do feel lost to find solace in others; they aren't the only ones out there.

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How to Survive Mass Graduate Unemployment

unemployment

Ripped jeans, shaggy hair, and nothing but a pocket of life philosophies to pay the bills; being a student means that being poor is pretty cool. However, this trend has now become an unshakable reality and while we can all talk a good game about Freud's penis envy and J. Edgar Hoover's vag envy, those graduation caps are only going to be good for collecting change while you busk for soup.

There are two main problems for graduates surviving this situation, and the sooner we meet it head on, the sooner we will stop avoiding each other's calls in case an envy-induced suicide attempt follows the news of a friend progressing beyond a call centre. So here's the first problem:

Not only can we not find a job that we want, we cannot find a job that we don't want.

That's right my friends. If you want that job in McDonald's then you need to either know the guy that works there or be able to offer sexual pleasures in exchange (which must also come with references so if you are a virgin then I am afraid Darwin has some news for you. You had your chance at University. Sluts will rule the world).

The second problem is mainly aimed at the pretentious buggars. Much like the virgins of the world, you will also have to die out in this dark, murky abyss of people killing each other for minimum wage jobs. You will also perish because you cannot bring yourself to accept that a newspaper doesn't care about your 'life or death' need to be the world's greatest journalist. Why? Because you don't have experience- and no, the University Newspaper doesn't count.

So how do we survive this? Easy. Leave dignity at the Poundland door, clean a few toilets and when the time comes when you are old enough for employers to take you seriously, get the job, settle down, have kids and as they grow tell them how hard it was back in the day. That is the circle of life.

Kim MacAskill

The Undead Cat

schro-schro

The thought experiment known as The Theory of Schrodinger's Cat has long been perceived as, if not the best, certainly the most interesting way to try and explain wave-particle duality. But if you find it a confusing and disturbing concept, don't be too hard on yourself, Schrödinger himself was using the cat in the box metaphor as a way of demonstrating how ridiculous the theory was, not trying to make it easier to understand. Wave-particle duality is a bizarre concept, but as a layman, I believe the easiest way to express it is with the double slit experiment, the very experiment that uncovered the strange behaviour of particles.

It would be prudent to begin by re-familiarising you with Schrödinger's cute dead/alive Cat. The idea is, you put a cat in a box with a radioactive element (eg-plutonium) that has a 50/50 chance of decaying in a one hour period, a hammer that will be released if the geiger counter goes off, and a jar containing poison in the path of the falling hammer. This means that there is a 50% chance that the plutonium will degrade, the hammer will fall and smash the jar of poison, killing the cat. However, when you close the lid of the box, after your 59 minutes, you might wonder if the cat is still alive, or whether it has been killed. The truth is more complicated, according to quantum wave-particle duality, until the cat has been observed, it exists in the two states at the same time. The cat is both alive, and dead.

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The Progression of Social Networking

social icons

Can you envisage anything coming along online in the near future to divert your attention away from your Facebook account? It's claimed the average Facebook user spends anywhere between 8 and 23 hours on the site per month, and there are over 800 million users worldwide. Impressive statistics that suggest long lasting global dominance for a phenomenally powerful brand. However history tells us there's always something new around the corner worthy of capturing the attention of the masses. I've decided to investigate how we arrived at the point we're currently at with our preferred methods of social networking and what is potentially the next step in an ever expanding industry.

Our lives are dominated by social networking. We organise events through these websites, communicate with both our nearest and dearest, as well as complete strangers through them, and to some it can even determine whether or not our relationships are 'officially' recognised by our peers. There is no denying just how huge an impact the emergence the likes of Facebook, Myspace and Twitter have had on our lives. What's even more remarkable is that the market leader, in terms of the sheer scale of its member size, Facebook, is still shy of its 8th birthday! What did we do in those dark days before we all had a profile that shared every little detail, no matter how dull with our online family of 'friends'?

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Grappling Hooks - North Atlantic Oscillation

grappling

It has been a very strange experience to review this debut album from Edinburgh based band North Atlantic Oscillation. I got Grappling Hooks as a Christmas present last year and loved it. This is a band with a distinctive sound, a sound of their own. In an odd way, it reminded me of For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver; both albums are unique and represent a moment captured in time. Other qualities Grappling Hooks have is that their music is wildly energetic, dripping with Beach Boy harmonies and Kid A-style electronic blips and bleeps. This was right up my street.

However, having pulled each song apart for this review, I've discovered that there are many limitations to each track, even a lack of imagination.

Even worse, one member of the band sounds like they are playing on a different album altogether – but I'll come back to this.

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